On BBC’s Dirty Rotten Scammers, Paula explained she was targeted in a carefully timed scam. She received a call at 6pm, a busy time for her, as she was dealing with dinner and bedtimes for her kids.
The call claimed to be from the NatWest fraud unit, and told Paula her card had been used in an attempt to buy a Mercedes in Manchester.
Alarmed at this transaction, Paula quickly informed the caller this was not her, and that the payment should be stopped.
The supposed fraud expert told Paula he thought she was involved in a scam, and that she would need to move her cash out of her account.
He claimed he would set up a “safe account” for her to move her cash, totalling £5,000.
“By the Wednesday, I waited for a card to come, but nothing. I phoned the number, and it just rang.
“I felt sad. Sad that someone had done that, because when you meet people who are calm and reassuring, you assume they want the best for you. Then I felt cross with myself for not picking up on it.”
Ultimately, NatWest was able to give the money back to Paula, understanding she had been scammed.
However, the psychological damage had already been done, and is still having an impact after the scam.
Co-presenters Michelle Ackerley and her mum, Mavis, were horrified at how Paula had been attacked by scammers.
They enlisted the support of ethical hackers to find out why Paula had been targeted.
Paula added: “I was quite wary for the next few months. Whenever I got a call from the bank, I’d be wary about it.
“I hope these ethical hackers don’t find anything but because I am a freelancer, my details must be quite easy to come by.”
After intense research, the professionals were able to root out security weaknesses, and help Paula to stand firm in the face of future attacks.
The mum was active on social media, and had revealed a lot of her personal life online.
It was found there were details of the names and addresses of her father, partner and children.
Ethical hackers were even able to find details about the sports Paula’s children play, as well as the positions they have played in.
“You post in the moment, and don’t think about the bigger picture,” the working mum added.
However, it was not the end of shocking details uncovered by the ethical hackers in Paula’s case.
They were able to find a password she had used in the past, but one which could still cause a concern.
Her email details had also been exposed in a data breach, alongside a few other passwords.
A data breach involves a person having their details exposed without their consent, when a company is hacked.
While there is nothing people can do to stop this, they can take action to protect themselves.
Michelle Ackerley recommended changing passwords and security questions once a data breach has been exposed.
Any suspicious activity should also be reported to the relevant authorities, including Action Fraud.
Paula said: “I used this password a long time ago. But that password is very associated with me. I need to be a bit more imaginative with it.
“The scary thing is not just that the information is out there, it is that people want to use this information negatively against you. It brings it home. It’s not a bad thing to reassess what we are posting, and how frequently we change our passwords.
“It will change how I behave online for good. I will stop and think for a moment before posting.”
Dirty Rotten Scammers appears weekdays at 10am until Friday, June 24.